Testimonial: Creating the Environment for Courageous Inclusion

Our organization has been verbally committed to DEI programming since our inception over six years ago. However, after George Floyd’s murder in mid-2020, we challenged ourselves to become a leader in DEI. I had some DEI training and learned more about it through personal study, but the Courageous Inclusion program was perfect in helping me and my organization as we figure out what DEI leadership looks like for us. In my role, I lead the advancement of DEI both within our organization and within our community in terms of workforce attraction and retention in our area: For example, internally we can better serve our clients when we recognize our own biases. The program was helpful in that it taught me the importance of conflict management and change management in leading in DEI. Recognizing that DEI is a change to the old way of doing things is important. The change won’t be easy but it is critical to the success of our workplace and business.

The program begins very personally, as Dr. Outing led us through several exercises where we explored how we see ourselves as a member of a group or several groups. One exercise stood out because it used a fictional story to help us understand how we all—corporate America, education, government, and individual citizens—have a part to play in excluding and marginalizing others.

I attended another DEI training recently, and am glad I took the Lehigh program first. Dr. Outing provides a foundation no matter what your previous level of knowledge of the topic is. He builds a common vocabulary and understanding, whereas other programs may assume you know more than you do. 

I could take this program again and learn more, and I highly recommend it. Dr. Outing moves from a personal exploration of the topic to a strategic business one, which is critical for making this process truly effective. Specific skills, including conflict resolution and change management, are needed in successfully leading in DEI. You can’t do this kind of work and expect there to be no conflict. Success really depends on managers’ understanding of their organizations and where they can push as well as where they need to listen.  You have to lead people to take a few steps or to build a bridge. You can’t ask employees to leap from mountain to mountain.

The program reinforced the idea that DEI work requires patience. No one is ever entirely satisfied with their progress. You have to set realistic goals, be happy that you have done something, and understand that it is never done.